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At the February 1 meeting of the Salmon City Council, Local Option Tax Commission Chairman and newly sworn City Councilman Jim Bockelman reported on Januaryís Local Option Tax Commission meeting.

The City Council makes final decisions as to which applicants are awarded Local Option Tax (LOT) funding based on recommendations from the LOT Commission. A subject of ongoing discussions has been the possible conflict of interests related to a City Councilman also being the chairman of the LOT Commission. It was announced at the council meeting that based on the legal opinion of Idaho Falls Attorney Dale Storer, as long as Bockelman is not a voting member of the LOT Commission he may retain the chairmanship as well as his position on the City Council.

In Bockelmanís LOT report he listed December revenue at $1,976 and said that is down $514 from the previous year. The amount of total funding available at the end of December, minus sums already allocated, was $8,735.

The LOT commission discussed at length the coordinator/administration fees being requested as part of LOT funding requests. Bockelman said the commission feels the need for a hard policy on the questions being posed therefore the matter will be on the LOT February 28 meeting agenda.

The commission accepted a draft policy on commission-member absenteeism. It also decided a policy needs to be established regarding funding that is not used by the original requesting group but is needed by a group that has stepped in and is proceeding with the previously funded project. Bockelman said that even though such a situation does not occur very often there should be a policy in place for when it does.

The board also noted the importance of recognition for the financial contributions at LOT funded events and will develop a policy for recipients to follow.

Later in the council meeting a Local Option Tax Policy Manual was officially introduced. Bockelman said there will be many commission members over the life of the ten year program and that the manual is meant as a guideline which can be updated to fill needs as they arise. He said the policies do not involve any changes to the original voter approved LOT Ordinance or to Idaho Statute, they are just a reflection of what the board has learned is the best way to do business.

Councilman Jim Kluesner thought the manual was good. Councilman Jim Baker wanted to wait until the next meeting to approve it which brought up the question of what in the manual qualified as needing council approval. Bockelman said the council already has final approval authority on commission recommendations for funding and if it were decided the Policy Manual needed a council vote it would set a precedent of having to have approval for everything the LOT Commission does.

The approval subject was carried forward into an opinion expressed a few weeks ago during a City Council Public Comment period. The speaker said the public should be allowed to comment on LOT funding recommendations presented to the council before the council votes.

Councilman Jesse Bender pointed out there are opportunities for public comment at LOT meetings as well as at council meetings and that both meetings are open to the public. The subject served as a reminder to the City Council to make sure there is a Public Comment opportunity listed on its agenda between the LOT presentation of funding recommendations and the councilís deciding vote.

The Local Option Tax Policy Manual was accepted by the council on a unanimous vote.

The Local Option Tax Commission meets the fourth Tuesday of every month at 5:30 PM in the Salmon Valley Center meeting room.

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